I Still Do.

usI still do. More than twenty years have passed, and I love my husband as fiercely as the day I said the words. For that, I thank God. Twice. First, because God shows me how to love, and second, because when we follow God, we’re easier to love. Bob is awfully easy to love, I tell you.

I tell students, words are their gift to the world and to themselves. Words, once set down, are a snapshot of the mind. They capture the way we think on a subject, at that moment. I was thinking about Bob and realized I’ve never set down how I feel about him. Tragedy, that. I sometimes take him for granted the way we take air for granted. Air is an apt comparison for his presence in my life because when he’s gone or things aren’t good between us, I feel asphyxiated and I flail around like a desperate tornado until we are good again. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen too often.

Every act of reconciliation begins with humility.

He said that to me as we walked together.  That gem has been rolling around in my mind ever since. I should probably have it tattooed to the inside of my eyeballs.

Bob wakes at 4 AM on work days. His first act of selflessness happens before he opens his eyes, as he struggles to shut down the alarm before it wakes his wife who sleeps so lightly, she can hear- with ear plugs- the sounds of breathing, snoring, lightly padding feet, the sound of the toothbrush against teeth or the towel rubbing on a wet body, etc. She even hears imaginary sounds that wake her. Hibernating bears are nicer when they are woken… so he shuts down the sound as fast as his sleep-deprived body will allow, slips out from between the sheets and steals out of the room like a navy seal.

Then, work. I’ve been at the plant where he works as a manufacturing supervisor. It sounds like the inside of a watch, if you could shrink yourself down to the size of an electron. It sounds busy and productive; an alarm constantly blares in the background and multiple smashing and banging car accidents seem to be occurring at regular intervals all over the place. Don’t mistake me; it’s a great job he has, working for a company that espouses Christian values and treats their employees with respect and dignity. But make no mistake: being in that building is taxing for everyone. The people who actually make things in America work very hard.

When he comes home thirteen hours later, he’s often greeted with multiple requests to be judge or principal or taxi driver, to appreciate some Minecraft art or some feat or some dinner or some hairdo… the list goes on and on. The point is, there is no transition. Our boys are extreme athletes: they practice their respective crafts 5+ days a week, which means a ton of sacrifice. On the altar of greatness, sleep is the first sacrifice. There are others. It is worth it. And it’s worth noting that my husband works so very hard to give his family the gift of opportunity. He fixes everything everyone breaks, holds everything that anyone else drops, holds back his tears when everyone else is crying, is the end of the line for strength and godliness, for decisions and their consequences; his is the life that is sacrificed first and foremost for any and every endeavor.

It often goes unnoticed and unappreciated. Except for this moment. In the moment you read this, know I know it. Words are a gift we give to those we love. They are a snapshot of the mind. This picture is me, plumbing what it’s like to be you. Not understanding, but trying.

This moment is one of many times I think of my husband and think how blessed I am. This time I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget.

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Combating Christmas Overload, Best I Can

Christmas156llisallindsayMy list of Christmas action items feels longer than Santa’s naughty list. The alarm grunts at me, and the I-should’s instantly pop up like hostile beaver heads. Every time I knock one down, more pop up. I’m hoping I don’t run out of time to slam them all into oblivion (thank you, imagination) before Christmas Day. My prayers become prayers for efficiency, that I might not forget a coach or a teacher or my husband…

For not getting all the things done that should be done, my heart condemns me. And then I’m sad. And it’s Christmas for goodness sake. I want to be peaceful and rest in the Lord. I call Him Father and do my best to love for Him. That’s what He asks in 1st John.

I’m sitting at Gabe’s swim practice watching them kick their hearts out while pushing kickboards and making a terrible splashing ruckus behind them, shaking all the way through their shoulders with the effort. (That is how my spirit feels: shaken all the way through with holiday efforts.) Gabe loves swimming. I love him loving it. Watching him progress is a great joy. And if I’m not careful– all-encompassing. Recently, someone I love called me to the carpet about putting my relationships in the back seat and giving the steering wheel to my son’s future Olympic stardom. Did you know Michael Phelps didn’t find true happiness? Even after winning those 22 Olympic medals? After being so super, so undeniably amazing that his records most likely won’t be broken for a decade. Uhem. Gabe would be twenty then…

So it didn’t make Phelps happy, all that success. I’m also noting that doing all my action items doesn’t necessarily make me happy. It’s elusive. God doesn’t want it to be a recipe: Do this good deed and voila! Happiness. Or a slot machine: Do this good deed and hope you get the jackpot of happiness.

The Truth: You [God] have put gladness in my heart more than when grain and new wine abound.  – Psalm 4:7

I’m working so hard, hoping God will put gladness in my heart this Christmas. In any stress, I default Martha, busy about so many things, but Mary was the slacker sitting at Jesus’ feet, getting that happiness.

Paradoxical: Do nothing, get happiness. Sigh. I suppose that’s why they call it faith. There are many examples in the Bible of great people who were supposed to do nothing for a moment and just couldn’t do nothing: King Saul, Peter, Moses.

Today I prayed to be Mary, somehow, even though I’ve many things about which to be distracted as I get ready for Christmas. I’m certain it’s possible to peacefully work. It’s not that I will sit and meditate today, trusting that elves or angels will come and wrap our gifts or cook the food or school Gabe. But I will sit at Jesus’ feet in my heart and do these things. That’s how I dedicate the day to the Lord.

That’s how I’ll combat Christmas overload, best I can.

12 Days of Christmas: Extraterrestrial Giving

AlienChristmas

By extraterrestrial giving, I don’t mean giving to aliens. Extra is latin for outside-of, and teres means circular or round. In honor of the twelve days of Christmas, it seemed a good idea to commit to giving twelve gifts outside my usual sphere, to do twelve acts that would make God smile. If you show love to those who love you, what good is that? Jesus asked His disciples. And I think, while it feels good and fuzzy to love on my family and friends at Christmas, I’m convinced by posts like this one, that I should extend my love extraterrestrially. God loves without return, without partiality, without justification. If I am to be like Jesus, I will love strangers. How do I make room in my heart and schedule for strangers? I begin by making declarations like this one, and praying for follow-through.

Christmas is an excellent time for me to act out my faith.

What use is… faith… if a brother or a sister is without clothing and in need of daily food? …what use is that? I will show you my faith by my works. James, Jesus’ half-brother, is credited with those sentiments. What good is my faith if it doesn’t work its way to action? The thief on the cross next to Jesus, though it was purely faith that made him utter: Remember me when you come into Your kingdom— didn’t just think his faith. He said it. His words were his work. If you have faith and it isn’t manifested by your actions, your faith is dead. So said Jesus.

These things are hard things for me, some harder than others. Doing them will require discipline and sacrifice, not Biblical sacrifice, but the modern Western cultural idea of sacrifice, which is denying my spoiled-baby flesh what it wants to do and have It-My-Way, every whim and wish granted to me this Christmas, as if Christmas is a lamp I rub and out pour all my desires, granted. It will involve not getting what I want in the merest way. Sacrifice.

Which is why, if I don’t follow through, I’m ridiculous. If I get to Christmas morning and do not do these few things, I’ll kiss a pig. Or perhaps just my dog, but he smells like a pig. And I’ll write a confessional post.

But no. Cup half-full. I will love extraterrestrially this Christmas.

Every extraterrestrial list would look different. My purpose in sharing is to give you some ideas of what occurred to me and also to keep me accountable. Writing and publishing my goals means that, inevitably, friends will run into me and ask, Did you ever do x? And I don’t want to be the spineless loser who has to say, No. I’m all smoke and thunder, sound and fury, signifying nothing. (Thank you, Shakespeare.)

Here are my ideas for extraterrestrial giving:

  1. Donate blood. My husband gives double-red regularly and says the process brings to mind the sacrifice of Christ. When he watches his blood flow away from his arm, bound for someone else who desperately needs it, he’s reminded that people still need Jesus. And Jesus shed His blood for us. When I give blood, I pray for the spiritual need of the one who will receive it.
  2. Register for the bone marrow directory at Be The Match. This is a personal journey for me: Treat others as you want to be treated. If I had a child whose life could be saved by a bone marrow transplant, and all that stands in the way of rescue is the willingness of people to be uncomfortable, it would break me to experience that helplessness.
  3. Give to World Vision– goats, chickens, loans, soccer balls. This one is so easy. Order a catalog. It’s better than creating a wish list. Recently Gabe wrote an essay on what he was thankful for. I was surprised to see water on that list. Because Gabe has an idea of just how destitute destitute can be (thanks in part to World Vision), he understands that clean drinking water is a blessing. So order a World Vision catalog for selfish reasons.
  4. Write a letter to my neighbors who moved away and tell them plainly about Jesus. My neighbor who practically put out a neon sign inviting me to share the gospel when he commented casually that he didn’t want to die because here [planet earth] he had a sure thing.  After that, who knows?  I do. I do know with utter certainty. Faith would share it.
  5. Write a letter to a friend’s father who is in prison. He will be there forever, most likely. He doesn’t know me, but I know his daughter, and I want to tell him that, even if he messed up enough to land where he’s at, he did something great in making her.  And he’s not forgotten.
  6. Write a post about Christmas. Writing about something means thinking deeply about it. What better subject to meditate on than Christmas! I was humble by this Christmas post put out by one of my students (11 years old).
  7. Operation Christmas Child. Putting together a shoe box of gifts for a child is one of the most rewarding experiences we have at Christmas. This year, Gabe helped me pick the toys. When Gabe chose presents which required batteries, it was an opportunity to talk about just how poor the kids are who’ll be receiving these gifts, that the option to purchase batteries is not an option. The toys must be sustainable. “Oh,” he says, and I wonder what all is going on behind that moment of realization.

Doing each of these items requires me to set aside some selfish pursuit I have in mind for myself. I know I’m not alone in this holiday tug-of-war, the one where I decide to sit and sip Starbucks with my sister rather than walk into a donation center or write that letter that’s feeling like a bad birth experience culminating in an ugly baby. I need help thinking of five more action items, so I’d welcome and be thankful for any suggestions. I’ll post with more when they come to me (please, action items… come to me).

For now, I’ll close with the words of a friend whose blog I adore: Goals– even goals not reached, put us one step closer to the end, and that makes them good. Though they’re not finished, these initial steps at extraterrestrial loving are good. I hope you too will be encouraged to do some extraterrestrial giving this year.